Society and Violence Against Women
When we discuss the major social issues that face many marginalised communities (such as women), we’re often faced with a very “what about x” dialogue. We mention one thing (one social issue) and the reply is always “well, what about so and so…”.
We mention one of the many issues that women face, and we always have to get around “well, what about men?” before we can have any kind of conversation about women’s concerns. Or we start a conversation about race issues and then, all of a sudden, there are white people claiming that they’re oppressed. Or we fight for same-sex marriage all around the world, and then there are heterosexuals claiming that it’s being forced on them.
It’s a dangerous conversational tactic that we see a lot of today. People use these tactics to deflect the real issue. When we’re constantly changing the topic, none of these issues will ever be solved.
In most situations, it’s used to avoid accountability. When a man says “well, what about men’s issues” in a discussion about women’s issues, he will refuse to accept any accountability for his role in women’s oppression. It’s important that we understand: all men play a role. All men are born to be oppressors.
Yet, we still refer to it as a “women’s issue”. We still understand it as “violence against women”. But nowhere in these titles, is the problem actually mentioned… which is men, the oppressors.
Recently, the most common response to this claim is that it’s “not all men”. This is true. Not all men are violent. In fact, there are men that provide more resources and activism for women’s liberation than some women do. However, these men still benefit from violence against women.
Are Nonviolent Men the Good Guys?
Every man out there probably thinks he’s the good guy.
Good guys exist and they’re an especially important part of society and culture. However, being nonviolent doesn’t a instantly make a man a good person.
These men embody the bystander effect. The bystander effect is a social psychological theory that claims people are less likely to help a victim when there are people present. They stand by and watch, without offering help.
They need to be active bystanders. Active bystanders intervene in harmful situations to help the victim. This involves awareness. Active bystanders are aware of harmful behaviour and they choose to challenge it.
To contextualise this theory, this doesn’t mean waiting until a woman is abused or assaulted. It means actually preventing abuse or assault from taking place. Men should be challenging the sexist and threatening behaviour of their male friends.
Doing nothing doesn’t make a man a good person.
When they say that it’s “not all men”, what they really mean is that it’s not them specifically. “Not all men” really just means “not me”. However, in reality… it is them. Cisgender men are an oppressive class. Women are an oppressed class.
Just because a man has never beaten or abused women, doesn’t mean he isn’t sexist. Just because a man has never beaten or abused women, doesn’t mean he isn’t (in other ways) perpetuating rape culture. Just because a man has never beaten or abused women, doesn’t mean he’ll intervene when he sees one of his friends doing it.
Enabling Rape Culture
When they ignore sexism and misogyny, they enable the brutal culture of violence against women – even if it’s not them directly that’s doing it.
People become numb to sexual violence because we’re constantly hearing ignorant jokes and comments about it. This behaviour teaches men and boys that sexism is “acceptable” or “normal” because they aren’t called out on it.
Nonviolent men are still a huge part of the problem. Society teaches all people to support sexist values and misogyny from birth.
Read: Gender Socialisation
The vast majority of men are rape enablers. They encourage behaviour that leads to rape and sexual violence. There are endless examples of comments and actions that are quite common and normalised to hear from boys and men.
Misogyny enables rape culture. Misogynistic comments, behaviours, and attitudes all enable violence against women. Misogyny is ingrained in society’s institutions to devalue women and femininity. Society teaches us all that women are inferior (misogyny). Therefore, many men don’t see women (and non-cismen) as actual human beings. They don’t care to learn about women’s concerns, women’s bodies or women’s perspectives because they don’t see them as important.
Fact: there aren’t female CPR dummies for people to practise on. It has been reported that women are 27% less likely than men to receive CPR if they suffer from cardiac arrest. (Read more)
Those that say, “not all men”, more often than not are also the ones that engage in sexist behaviours and practises. These are the same men that make rape jokes, call women “dishwashers”, body shame, slut shame, and objectify women. This enables rape culture. This behaviour (being normalised) tells men and boys that they’re entitled to women’s bodies, which encourages sexual violence.
How Does Violence Against Women Benefit Nonviolent Men?
The patriarchy is a violent system of oppression. It has been for thousands of years in many cultures.
Today, the standard for men is extremely low. In comparison, the standard for women is extremely high.
Cisgender men are socially, politically and economically threatening. Therefore, nonviolent men are given “awards” for basic human decency. Men that don’t abuse women or just “seem” respectful are rewarded for it. However, this is literally just the bare minimum.
Cismen are rewarded for basic respect because society accommodates violent and aggressive men to the point where it’s expected. In that sense, it really is ALL MEN.
However, misogyny is very deeply rooted in modern culture. Plenty of men “seem” like friendly and approachable guys but (from what I’ve seen) they can very easily switch. It might not be all men but women certainly don’t know which it is. It’s very easy for men to fit the description of “what women want” but with bad intentions.
Misogyny is so deeply rooted that these behaviours may not be intentional. Even the people that are educated on misogyny and sexism may still exhibit sexist behaviours. Sexism and misogyny are normalised. There are many comments and behaviours that we see every day that are laced with misogyny (or blatantly misogynistic) that we just accept as normal social interactions.
Women Don’t Actually Prefer “Bad Boys”
Many people think that women are attracted to “bad boys”. Geoffrey Urbaniak and Peter Kilmann did a study in 2003 that introduced the “Nice Guy Paradox”. The study revealed that women prefer friendly and approachable men rather than conventionally attractive “bad boys” (source). Another 1995 study revealed that dominance alone didn’t have any effect on a woman’s attraction to a man. Genuine niceness is the essential feature that increased the desirability of a man (source).
Women favour qualities that show safety and security in a man.